The competition for the attention of users is a central element of the Internet. Crucial issues are the origin and predictability of big hits, the few items that capture a big portion of the total attention. We address these issues analyzing 10 million time series of videos’ views from YouTube. We find that the average gain of views is linearly proportional to the number of views a video already has, in agreement with usual rich-get-richer mechanisms and Gibrat’s law, but this fails to explain the prevalence of big hits. The reason is that the fluctuations around the average views are themselves heavy tailed. Based on these empirical observations, we propose a stochastic differential equation with Le\’evy noise as a model of the dynamics of videos. We show how this model is substantially better in estimating the probability of an ordinary item becoming a big hit, which is considerably underestimated in the traditional proportional-growth models.
Stochastic dynamics and the predictability of big hits in online videos
Jose M. Miotto, Hogler Kantz, Eduardo G. Altmann